Egyptian football referee joins IS group
Screenshot of now-suspended Twitter account claiming Mahmoud Ghandour has joined the Islamic State group

CAIRO: An Egyptian referee has allegedly joined the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria and Iraq, leading the Egyptian Football Federation to withdraw his name from the list of the referees, and has drawn intense criticism from football fans on social media.

Islam Yaken, a former aspiring personal trainer who joined IS in 2014, posted a photo of himself and 24-year-old Mahmoud al-Ghandour, a referee in the second tier Egyptian league saying, “I would like to send a message to all journalists and others who were trying to contact my friend Mahmoud al-Ghandour; he is with me now.”

Ghandour was born in Cairo and lived in Nasr City, also Yaken’s hometown; he received his primary and preparatory education at a private school Aladdin in Harm district of Giza, then he studied Law at Ain Shams University, according to his Facebook account. He had a Youtube channel posting videos in which he was acting and singing.

Yaken was also educated at the faculty of Law at Ain Shams University.

Ghandour posted photos on his page of him and Yaken eating in a restaurant; he also said he volunteered for the Resala Charity Organization.

Image from Mahmoud Ghandour's Facebook page

Image from Mahmoud Ghandour’s Facebook page

Ghandour was arrested in July 2014 by the Egyptian security forces for investigation after he returned home from Syria. He had travelled to Syria through Turkey as an activist in a humanitarian convoys to Palestine, Youm7 reported. Ghandour’s page said he was released from prison Dec. 23, and that his current residence is in Rome.

Ghandour posted on Feb. 3, 2014 “homage to al-Baghdadi,” the self-proclaimed caliph of the IS group. He also praised the beheading of the 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians by the IS branch in Libya, posting “the best thing of the beheading the Christians in Libya by the black lions of Daesh is that the Egyptian Army indulged itself in this matter.”

After the IS group in Libya released a video showing the beheading of the Christians, the Egyptian Army along with Libyan Tobruk-based government launched airstrikes on suspected IS groups havens in Derna and Sirte. The army later announced that it had killed 50 suspected IS members in the airstrikes.

The Egyptian Football Association (EFA) media officer Azmy Megahed announced Friday evening that the EFA had withdrawn Ghandour’s from the list of official referees over his joining the IS group.

“Any sportsman’s name will be stricken if it were proved he belongs or joins any terrorist group for preserve the state’s sake,” Megahed said in a statement.

The EFA Board member Essam Abdel Fatah told Youm7 Ghadnour missed several events last year, and he called for opening an investigation to prove if Ghandour joined IS or not.

Mahmoud’s uncle, Gamal al-Ghandour, also a referee, told media he had not been in contact with his nephew for two years.

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